Commission to intervene on ‘serious human rights implications’ of Serco lock-change policy

Commission to intervene on 'serious human rights implications' of Serco lock-change policy

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has today been granted leave to intervene in the continuing challenge to Serco's lock-change policy in the Court of Session's Inner House. The housing provider's policy affects people seeking asylum in Scotland, in effect evicting them from their homes with no opportunity to defend themselves against the decision.

The Commission's intervention - the first time it has used its power to intervene in civil litigation - will be made in the case of Ali v Serco and the Home Secretary. The case was first heard by the Court of Session's Outer House. The decision of that court was issued in April 2019 and is now being appealed.

The appeal comes alongside multiple successful challenges in the Sheriff Court which have temporarily prevented people being evicted in 41 out of 44 cases until the important issues raised in this case are resolved.

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission said:

"This case raises serious human rights implications for people who are already in a deeply vulnerable position. Nobody should be left deliberately destitute and homeless by the actions of the state, or by organisations delivering services on the state's behalf.

"Everyone has a right to a private and family life, to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment and, in terms of international law, a right to adequate housing. The UK government has corresponding legal obligations to protect these rights, as does Serco when it comes to providing housing services on its behalf.

"Locking people out of their homes, leaving them destitute and vulnerable on Scotland's streets, is, in the Commission's view, a clear violation of these human rights responsibilities.

"There is a significant public interest in ensuring that governments and their contractors are held to account when they disregard their human rights obligations. Strengthening accountability for human rights breaches is a key priority for the Commission and we are therefore pleased to have been granted leave to intervene in this case."

The case is now expected to be heard in the Court of Session on 28 August 2019.


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Note to editors: 

  1. The Scottish Human Rights Commission is an independent public body established by the Scottish Commission for Human Rights Act 2006.
  1. The Commission has the power to intervene in civil legal cases where there is a matter of strong public interest and where the case is relevant to its core duty to protect human rights. However, its powers of intervention are limited and it does not have the power to take on individual cases.
  1. See the Commission's previous comment on the outcome of Ali v Serco and the Home Secretary in the Outer House of the Court of Session in April 2019.
  1. There have been numerous legal challenges to Serco's evictions under the lock-change policy from Shelter, the Legal Services Agency, Latta & Co. and Govan Law Centre. These have resulted in eviction being halted in 41 out of 44 cases.